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1973 Honda CL350 Cafe Racer test ride review

1973 Honda CL350 Cafe Racer Review

After months of messing around in the garage, it was finally time to take the 1973 Honda CL350 cafe racer out for a test ride and to give a review on what it was like to ride this 48 year old motorcycle.

If you haven’t been following the 1973 Honda CL-350 Cafe Racer Series, in Episode 1 the motorcycle was looked over to address its needs. In Episode 2 I bled the brake lines because the fluid looked old. In Episode 3 I drained the old gas and put in fresh gas. In Episode 4 I figured out the secrets to getting her running.

Now, in this final Episode, I’ll be taking her out for a test ride and giving you a review of this 1973 Honda CL350 cafe racer.

1973 Honda CL350 Cafe Racer Review

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Watch this video!

The first two things I loved about the CL-350

The first thing I found myself loving about the CL-350 was her looks. The previous owner had given her a top to bottom restoration, including tearing her down to the frame and cleaning, repainting and rebuilding everything, and the work showed well.

The second thing that made me fall for the little cafe racer is that she consistently starts on the first kick. This is important on a motorcycle that hasn’t had a working electric start in who knows how many years or decades. Sure, in near freezing temperatures she might take two or three kicks more, but most people won’t be riding in that kind of weather.

The first two things I hated about the CL-350

Unfortunately, once I got on the motorcycle, the realities of her shortcomings began to show. What was immediately evident was that this was not an issue of “1 down, 4 up”. The shift linkage had been removed from the bike, switching the shift lever to a “1 up, 4 down” configuration, that look some getting used to.

The other thing that took getting used to was that the food pegs and foot controls weren’t as they should have been. There was about 6″ to the shift lever by my left foot, versus only 4″ to the brake pedal by my right foot. It was distracting and the position was a bit awkward.

CL350 side profile

How does it handle?

The little Honda handled terrifically on a course of inclines, declines, and long sweeping turns. The typical cafe racer bent-forward ergonomics of being leaned forward over the tank, keeping the rider’s center of gravity low might have helped a little.

Let’s be honest, back in 1973 this motorcycle originally only weighed about 346 lbs, over the past century it’s only had more and more weight removed from it, so odds are the bike’s light weight and small tires are what really contribute to the quick handling.

Does everything work?

Unfortunately, not everything was working when I took the CL350 out for a test ride. The headlights, turn signals, horn, hand controls and tachometer all worked perfectly. The speedometer was not working.

The speedometer not working may have been something as simple as the speedo cable coming lose at either the wheel end of the cable, or the cluster end of the cable, but I didn’t have the chance to look into it, nor did it seem too important. On a bike this age, speeding isn’t a priority.

Something that impressed me

I was really impressed with the sound of the exhaust. It was home made, having been welded together by the previous owner.

With carbureted motorcycles, adjusting to carb jets to deal with aftermarket air filters and home made exhausts can be a bit tricky, but this Honda CL350 cafe racer had been tuned to perfection, and power delivery was smooth and fairly linear throughout the engine’s RPM range, despite the customizations.

CL350 cafe racer on the truck

What’s next for the Honda CL350 cafe racer?

After 5 episodes, the Honda CL350 cafe racer series is now over. If you missed previous episodes I suggested you check them out, starting with Part 1.

The cafe racer is off to her owner’s home. He has a 1970s themed basement so she’ll be stored away in there as part of the décor until it’s time to bring her out and get her running once again.

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. Next project: RETRO SCRAMBLER please!

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